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Executive Chef / Partner / General Manager
Jason Balestrieri is executive chef / partner of Cantinetta Luca, Carmel’s popular and bustling neighborhood trattoria. Appointed to the position in 2008, Balestrieri offers the pure flavors of authentic Italian food in a casual, modern setting. With deep familial roots in Southern Italian cuisine, Chef Balestrieri specializes in handmade pastas, wood-oven baked pizza, unique varieties of house-cured salumi, roasted whole fish and meats served family-style. In September 2011 Balestrieri launched the neighboring Salumeria Luca, a wonderfully authentic Italian deli and bakery offering high-quality imported and house-made items. In 2012 David Fink and Jason Balestrieri opened their concept for a gourmet burger restaurant located in the Carmel Plaza.
Growing up in Wisconsin, Balestrieri was steeped in his Italian family’s deep culinary traditions. After receiving his Culinary Arts degree from the Milwaukee Area Technical College, Balestrieri worked at a Milwaukee neighborhood café before moving to the highly regarded Pfister Hotel, where he trained as line and pantry cook.
The sunny skies of California beckoned, however, and Balestrieri moved to Los Angeles in 1993, accepting a position at Pinot Bistro under chef/ founder Joachim Splichal and executive chef Octavio Beccera. Dedicating the next five years to Twin Palms in Pasadena, Balestrieri advanced from sous chef to chef de cuisine under chef/owner Michael Roberts, and finally to executive chef at the Twin Palms in Valencia.
In 2000, Jason’s association with Joachim Splichal evolved when he accepted a position as lead line cook at Los Angeles’ acclaimed Patina. He was quickly promoted to sous chef for Splichal’s Cafe Pinot, and for three years worked as executive chef at Pinot Hollywood. Ultimately, Jason became executive chef at Splichal’s Nick and Stef’s Steakhouse, where he assumed complete responsibility for all kitchen operations of the 250-seat restaurant.
During his time with Splichal, Balestrieri was introduced to David Fink, a close friend of Splichal’s and owner of Cantinetta Luca and L’Auberge Carmel. Balestrieri became executive chef at Cantinetta Luca in 2006, and partner two years later.
Rethink Italian at Cantinetta Luca
I’m in an Italian bisteccheria, an exotic, sexy steakhouse. And I’m deliriously content.You may think Italians don’t eat steak, but they certainly do. Click Here to Read the Entire Article
by Mike Hale, Monterey Herald, May 5, 2015
A Brief And Opinionated Guide To Monterey County, Carmel, And Big Sur, California
A longtime local favorite on one of Carmel’s main drags, Luca is especially popular for its house-made and artisan salume, house-made pasta, and bistecca alla fiorentina for two, as well as a convivial vibe and lively late-night scene. Click Here to Read the Entire Article
by Ann Abel, Forbes.com, March 18, 2013
Carmel and Monterey make their mark on fine dining
Opened in 2006, Cantinetta Luca quickly became the best place to go for casual, well-prepared Italian-inspired food. Chef Jason Balestrieri offers all the right things - burrata cheese ($9), arancini ($6), excellent pizza ($13-$16), house-made pastas and beautifully roasted meats and fish ($22-$29).One of the chef's main loves is salumi. In fact, beside the open kitchen he has a salumi room, which led to his next big idea.In August, the restaurant expanded next door with Salumeria Luca, a takeout deli and bakery. As with the restaurant, the offerings change seasonally, but now Balestrieri has a venue to sell his prosciutto, house-made cheeses and other handiwork. The restaurant also offers grilled panini and other items that can be taken away for a picnic.In addition, you can buy pizza dough, olive oils, pasta sauce and pastas, and even some hand-cut steaks.Click Here to Read the Entire Article
by Michael Bauer, SF Chronicle, September 18, 2011
Dose of Vitamin P: Cantinetta Luca Salume Selection
The restaurant has wood fired pizzas, several pastas and entrees, but the aspect that left the biggest impression was the salume, mostly house-made and kept in a glass fronted room between the bar and open kitchen. We ordered the Selection of Salume ($24.95) and subbed in wild boar prosciutto for sweet capicolla from the Bronx for an extra $3. This ended being a great deal, since we got to experience eight different meats, most of them pork-based. Click Here to Read the Entire Article
By Joshua Lurie, Food GPS, April 17, 2012
Feeling Cured: Salumeria Luca unfurls an impressive assemblage of Italian charcuterie, sandwiches and other treats
The first I heard of Salumeria Luca was from a friend who bought her father a salami sandwich for his birthday. He promptly reported that it transported him back to his native Italy with the first bite. I knew with similar immediacy that I had to compare Luca against the high salumeria standards I developed tasting my way through Rome. Traditionally a salumeria is more than a butcher shop. It’s an Italian deli that carries fine, artisanal charcuterie like prosciutto, salami, bologna, mortadella and beef bresaola. Carmel recently gained its only traditional Italian salumeria when Luca opened right next door to its sister Italian restaurant Cantinetta Luca on Dolores Avenue, where riches like imported Italian salume, Chef Jason Balestrieri’s house made sausages and cheeses, carefully curated wines, fresh pasta, fresh baked bread and shelves full of Italian grandmother’s favorite pantry items reside. Click Here to Read the Entire Article
by Ulia Zettie, MC Weekly, December 22, 2011
Stumbling into this special find on Dolores Street brings you right back to the best secret family-style restaurants in Rome. Locals and visors enjoy delicious pizza, baked in an authentic, Italian, no gas, wood-burning pizza oven. Do not miss the salume and fresh handmade pasta. Simple and rustic at its best.Click Here to Read the Entire Article
by Milla Sukonik, Caviar Affair, Winter 2014